10 Biggest Mistakes England Made at 2014 World Cup

Garry HayesFeatured ColumnistJuly 1, 2014

10 Biggest Mistakes England Made at 2014 World Cup

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    While the World Cup continues to excite football fans across the globe, the inquest into England's failure in Brazil goes on.

    The Three Lions recorded their worst-ever performance at a World Cup this summer, failing to advance from their group without a win to their name.

    There were positives to take from the campaign, notably the emergence of some young talent in the squad, but in the short term, fans and pundits alike are asking what went wrong in Brazil, trying to come to terms with another poor display on the biggest stage.

    Of all those things that made an impact, Bleacher Report highlights the 10 biggest mistakes England made at the 2014 World Cup.

Playing Wayne Rooney out of Position

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    It was harsh to single Wayne Rooney out in the aftermath of England's opening-match defeat to Italy.

    The Manchester United striker came in for some harsh criticism, as the Three Lions crashed to a 2-1 defeat, but playing wide left of England's attackers, he shouldn't be held fully accountable for a disappointing performance.

    Roy Hodgson should have started Rooney in his preferred position through the middle—the position he plays most weeks for his club side and where he carries the biggest threat.

    Rooney on the left, or right for that matter, is not the same player, and England paid the price against the Italians.

    Rooney was moved more centrally against Uruguay, a game in which he scored and also hit the bar from a header. In terms of his attacking impact, it was far better, although England went on to lose the game 2-1.

    By the time they faced Uruguay, though, there was a sense of Hodgson's side playing catch-up. It was do or die, and the pressure intensified as a result.

    Had Rooney been deployed in his more natural role from the outset, it may well have been very different.

Giving Andrea Pirlo Too Much Space to Operate in Midfield

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    At Euro 2012, Andrea Pirlo did a number on England.

    Controlling the game from his midfield position, he was the architect of the Three Lions' downfall. He wasn't at his ruthless best when they met in the World Cup, but he was still a major influence in Italy's 2-1 win.

    Pirlo wasn't man-marked against England, a tactic that gave him free licence to roam and cause damage.

    England allowed him too much room to operate, with Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson often chasing shadows as a result.

    With an extra man playing through the middle, too, the Italians won the tactical battle, with Pirlo a key part of it.

    England should have learned their lesson from two years previous.

Not Bringing John Terry out of Retirement

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    There were valid reasons for and against bringing John Terry back into the England squad ahead of the World Cup.

    He was widely regarded as England's best centre-back last season, creating a formidable partnership with Gary Cahill at the back. It was hoped that would then be carried over into the World Cup, with Cahill alongside him.

    There was also the thought, however, that Hodgson should give the players who got England to Brazil, the chance to represent their country at the highest level, giving some youngsters a chance to impress, too.

    Given England's back-up centre-backs were Chris Smalling and Phil Jones, hindsight tells us Hodgson should have pulled out the stops to get Terry back for this one competition at least.

    In his place, Phil Jagielka struggled to impress, and as a result, England struggled at the back.

    They lacked leadership and the nous to get through high-pressure moments—qualities Terry has built his career on.

    England would have been better with him among their ranks.

Being Too Cocksure

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    "Yes I believe the squad can win the World Cup, otherwise what's the point?"

    That was Hodgson's statement, per The Mirror, shortly before England boarded the plane to Brazil, returning less than a fortnight after they arrived, having finished bottom of Group D.

    Not much was expected of England going into the tournament, but after some promising performances in their warm-up matches, suddenly there was a ground-swell of belief the impossible might well happen.

    When it didn't, the usual disappointment was followed by negativity toward the England team and manager, despite the clear positives we saw.

    Hodgson would have been better off playing down England's chances in public. Sure, in private, it would have been good practice to be positive with his players, but such bold statements helped play a part in breeding false hope among the public.

    Had that not been the case, the fallout from Brazil 2014 may well have been very different.

Making Steven Gerrard Captain

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    It's natural for managers to look to their more experienced players to captain teams, but given the 2014 World Cup had long been billed as England's chance to rebuild and blood their new breed of talent, giving Steven Gerrard the armband was a mistake.

    The Liverpool man has achieved so much in his career, yet he has always left fans wanting more on the international stage.

    A player such as Joe Hart may have been more suitable as a short-term solution. Gerrard's position as captain made him undroppable, meaning poor performances or not, he was always starting the biggest games, and it limited England's tactics.

    Gerrard was well off the pace against Italy and proved ineffective against Uruguay in England's second World Cup outing, too.

    Whether a change in personnel would have improved England's chances or not, we'll never know, but Gerrard's position was never in doubt simply due to his position as captain.

    Hodgson was unable to consider certain changes as a result, and it held England back.

Using Costa Rica Dead Rubber to Rotate the Squad

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    Jon Super/Associated Press

    He may not admit it, but making considerable changes to his team against Costa Rica in England's final group game, smacked of Hodgson writing the game off.

    Sure, it was a dead rubber, with England already eliminated and Costa Rica advancing, but there was pride at stake for the Three Lions.

    A victory would have boosted morale and giving them some satisfaction when they departed Brazil. A big enough win would have seen them leapfrog Italy into third place, too.

    Instead, what we saw was a disjointed display from England—a group of players playing like they had never featured for 90 minutes together, of which they hadn't.

    The game was more akin to a pre-season friendly than a World Cup match.

    Despite all that, England dominated possession and should have won the game.

    With their strongest team lining up, they may well have had enough to dent Costa Rica's confidence and regain an element of pride in the process.

Playing a 4-2-3-1 Formation

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    Matt Dunham/Associated Press

    Italy's Daniele De Rossi, Andrea Pirlo and Marco Verratti overran England's two-man midfield of Gerrard and Henderson.

    There were times they simply couldn't get near their opponents, who used their extra numbers to pass their way through the middle.

    It gave Italy the impetus and forced England onto the back foot, Gerrard and Henderson forced to sit deeper than they would have liked in order to prevent space being created behind them.

    As a result, Italy controlled the game and dictated the pace for long periods.

    The 4-2-3-1 formation didn't suit Rooney's talents, either, with Hodgson fielding him on the left of England's attacking three behind the striker (see Slide 1).

    A 4-3-3 would have allowed for Hodgson to get more out of his players, giving Henderson licence to get forward and join attacks, assisting Raheem Sterling, Daniel Sturridge and Rooney.

    The full-backs would have enjoyed more cover as well, meaning Leighton Baines wouldn't have been so exposed on the left, where both Italy goals came from.

    It proved similar against Uruguay, also, with a packed midfield getting the better of England.

Not Giving Ross Barkley More Game Time

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    Matt Dunham/Associated Press

    One of England's best performers at Brazil 2014 was undoubtedly Ross Barkley.

    The Everton midfielder impressed during two substitute roles against Italy and Uruguay, but it was when he started against Costa Rica that we saw just what England had been missing.

    His energy and aggression gave England an edge, bringing extra bite into the middle.

    He's not just a physical presence, though. Make no mistake, Barkley is a talented footballer, and his link-up play ensured England looked exciting in attack.

    With him starting against Italy and Uruguay, instead of Danny Welbeck, England would have been more dynamic, and he may well have proved the difference in turning defeats into victory.

Selecting Leighton Baines as First-Choice Left-Back

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    Thanassis Stavrakis/Associated Press

    It's easy to mark it as a mistake now, but headed into the World Cup, the majority of England fans would have agreed with Baines starting as England's first-choice left-back.

    Hodgson got it wrong.

    Luke Shaw may only be 18, but his World Cup debut has shown he is undoubtedly his country's finest left-back now.

    The former Southampton man was excellent against Costa Rica, playing with the confidence and assurance that would have benefited England in their early games.

    Baines seemed overawed by the World Cup, making errors we're not used to seeing from him in the Premier League.

Relying Too Much on Young Talent to Produce the Goods

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    Matt Dunham/Associated Press

    For all the experience of England's older stars, it was the Three Lions' youngsters who were relied upon to produce the goods when it mattered most.

    The likes of Sterling, Sturridge and Barkley were featuring at their first major international tournament, yet they were expected to get England out of a hole.

    When teams face difficult scenarios in matches and campaigns, it's the senior players who help get them through.

    In Brazil 2014, the likes of Gerrard and Rooney didn't deliver when it mattered most, and England paid the ultimate price.

    As this team develops, those young players will be all the better for it, but in the short term, they have missed out when England's experienced stars should have taken on more of the burden.